Hello, friends! Our book today is Letters To A Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn, a complex picture book with a compelling lesson in humanity.
Without text, we see a father and his young daughter joining in a peaceful protest, holding signs and a balloon. They are a met by soldiers, one of whom injures the man, tearing him from his daughter and throwing him in an ambulance. As the girl cries, the soldier even pops her balloon. The man is brought to a solitary cell, where he is imprisoned unjustly. He shares his meager meals with a bird and a mouse, who begin to bring him letters. The letters bring joy and hope momentarily, before they are taken and torn up by the guard. But more letters begin to arrive, each time giving the man small comfort before they are stolen and burned. But the smoke from their fire sends an SOS across the world, and a diverse cast of characters all join in to write to the man, using their words to give him hope and, eventually, wings with which to return home.
As you may have guessed, this is not your average picture book; it was inspired by Amnesty International’s letter-writing campaigns, and perhaps not for very young readers who may be disturbed by the themes. However, for older children – especially those that may just be starting to ask questions about global issues, this is an absolutely incredible book. Using political cartoon-inspired art, symbolic imagery elicits a sense of empathy and connection to the reader, putting them in both the family’s shoes. I especially loved the scene of the letter-writers, showing there are no restrictions on who you have to be to get involved: young and old, rich and poor, race, gender, disability – there’s no rules about doing what’s right. And while JJ may not have understood the larger issues, she did enjoy the art very much. A moving tale about what can happen when people band together and use the power of words, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!